Sunday, December 9, 2012
Wrap-up: Rams 15, Bills 12
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 15-12 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 14:
What it means: The Rams have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2006. Quarterback Sam Bradford enhanced his already strong fourth-quarter credentials with a game-winning drive featuring outstanding plays from his receiving targets as well. St. Louis improved to 6-6-1 and kept itself alive in the NFC playoff picture. This was a huge road victory for the Rams, who had gone 1-6 outside the NFC West before Sunday. The defense deserves credit for hanging tough and keeping the Bills' scoring down without enough help for most of the game.
What I liked: Bradford entered this game ranked third behind Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning in fourth-quarter Total QBR. Austin Pettis helped him out on that front with a sensational fourth-and-1 grab on a pass well behind him as the Rams drove in the final two minutes. Bradford threaded a 22-yarder to Lance Kendricks over the middle on the same drive. Brandon Gibson also emerged in key spots, including on his 8-yard scoring reception to take the lead in the final minute. With that, Bradford led the winning 84-yard touchdown drive to salvage what had been a dispiriting performance from the offense.
The Rams' defense bent, but it rarely broke despite getting little help from the offense most of the way. Stopping the Bills after Buffalo took over at its own 49-yard line in the fourth quarter was critical. The Rams got 2.5 sacks from their starting defensive tackles, including 1.5 from rookie Michael Brockers. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar preserved the victory with an interception in the final 30 seconds.
Bradford and Gibson got going in the third quarter as St. Louis took the lead. Bradford also showed his running ability, picking up 12 yards on a third-and-9.
What I didn't like: The offense couldn't get anything going by ground or air through the first half and too much of the second. The Rams joined the Kansas City Chiefs as the only teams to go scoreless against the Bills through a first half. The Bills' defensive front, improved in recent weeks as its health has improved, appeared to have its way with the Rams up front. Bradford took too many hits. For too long, the Rams' receivers appeared to have a hard time getting open. The weather was wet and the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium looked like a slow track.
Rookie punter Johnny Hekker mishandled a punt snap and took a hard hit while trying to punt the ball, giving the Bills possession at the St. Louis 37.
What's next: The Rams are home against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15.